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Achimenes, Achnatherum, Aciphylla, Acokanthera. A-Z of plant genera part-4

Updated on September 27, 2015

Achimenes erecta in cultivation.



In this series we are reviewing the A-Z of Plant genera. Here in part four we review four more genera, starting with the letter A. We commence with the genus Achimenes. This is a genus containing about 25 species of tropical and sub-tropical perennial herbs. they may be erect or trailing perennials with a small rhizome rootstock. many have showy flowers especially the cultivars.

They are,however, frost tender and require a minimum temperature of 10 degrees C, { 50 degrees F. }.The cultivars prefer light,but not full sun {unless stated},and well drained soil. tepid water should be used to water container grown species. Allow to dry out after flowering and over winter the rhizomes in a frost free place. The rhizome may be divided in spring or propagation may be achieved by taking stem cuttings during the summer.

The genus name is said to derive from the Greek cheimanos,meaning tender,an apt description of the genus. They belong to the plant family Gesneriaceae.

Achimenes grandiflora

Morelos Mexico.
Morelos Mexico. | Source

Achimenes longiflora


A look at the species.

Achimenes erecta, {Header image}, is an erect bushy,branching, perennial with a height and spread of about eighteen inches {45 cm }. The leaves are narrowly oval,often in whorls. They produce bright red or scarlet flowers,which are tubular,with yellow eyes,which appear in summer,from June to October. They are also known by the common names of Cupid's bower or Magic flower. They may also be encountered under the scientific name of Achimenes coccinea and Achimenes pulchella.

Achimenses grandilfora,is native to Mexico and central America, growing in the mountainous regions. As a cultivar it is an ornamental plant. It is an erect perennial with a height and spread of two feet {60 cm } The foliage is oval,toothed,and often reddish below. It is free flowering,producing large funnel shaped flowers, dark pink to purple with white eyes.

Achimenses longiflora. is a species which may attain the height of twenty four inches,arising from the short rhizome. The foliage is hairy and toothed, up to 3,5 inches long and one and a half inches wide. The usually blue flowers have a white throat. They are tubular and may be up to two inches long,and up to three inches across.

The cultivar A.antirrhina, is an erect perennial with a height and spread of fourteen inches or more. The foliage is oval and the leaves are toothed up to two inches long and of unequal size,borne in opposite pairs. During the summer the plant produces funnel-shaped red/orange flowers up to one and a half inches long,with yellow throats.

There follows images of some more Achimenses cultivars.

Achimenes cettoana.

Tender perennials.
Tender perennials. | Source

Achimenes misera in cultivation.


Achimenes pendunculata in Cultiavtion


Acanatherum calamagrostis

Taken  at the Berlin Botanical Garden.
Taken at the Berlin Botanical Garden. | Source

The genus Achnatherum

The genus Achnatherumis a genus of plants which include several species of needle grass. Some species have been switched to the genus Stipa.

Achnatherum calamagrostis, syn,Stpia calamagrostis, is in cultivation an evergreen,tuft forming perennial grass with a height of Three feet or more. The foliage is bluish green and in-rolled. During the summer it produces decorative ,large,loose,panicles of sandy brown spikelets,that last well into the winter.

It has several common names including 'Spear grass', 'Needle grass' and ' Silver spike grass.'

Achnatherum aridum, is another species of grass. It is referred to as the Mormon needle grass,and is native to the south western United States, from the Mojave Desert in California,east to New Mexico.

The leaf blade is 3 mm wide,the inflorescence 5-17 cm {2-6 inches} is often partly enclosed by the upper most leaf sheath. The spikelets,have hair-like awns 2-cm { 1.6-3.1 inches } long. They are found at an elevation of 1200-1550 m. They may be encountered on outcrops and shrub-steppe. They belong to the family Poaceae.

Achantherum coronatum. syn, Stipa coronatum, is a grass also referred to by the common name of 'Crested Needle Grass'. It is a species native to California,where it grows on coastal and inland hills. It may be found to an altitude of 5,000 feet above sea level.

It is large clump-forming plant up to six feet six inches in height, but generally shorter than this. The clump stems arise from a short rhizome root-stock. The inflorescence is up to two feet long with large spikelets up to three quarters of an inch long.

In the genus Achanatherum there are between 100-300 species.

Aciphylla aurea

Hooker Valley ,Mount Cook National Park.
Hooker Valley ,Mount Cook National Park. | Source

The genus Aciphylla.

The genus Aciphylla is a genus of about forty species. Cultivars are evergreen perennials grown mainly for the architectural value of their spiny foliage,but also for the flowers,which are produced more freely on male plants. They are frost hardy and require full sun and well drained soil. The necks of the plants will need protection from winter wet. This may be achieved by a deep layer of stone chippings.

They may be propagated by seed when fresh,in late summer or early spring. The plants belong to the family Apiaceae,formerly the Umbellifers, and are native to New Zealand.

Aciphylla aurea, is sometimes referred to by the names of Golden Spaniard, or Golden Spear grass It is found throughout the South island of New Zealand, usually in mountainous regions up to about 4,900 feet, but also at lower levels in well drained grassland. It flowers in its native home between January and February. The flower stem is very spiky ,quite large and solid.

The Cultivar 'Golden Spaniard' is an evergreen ,rosette-forming perennial with long bayonet-like ,yellow green leaves..It bears spikes of golden yellow flowers from late spring to early summer, up to six feet tall.The height and spread in leaf before the flower spikes form is between two and two and a half feet. They prefer full sun and a well drained soil,and are frost hardy down to -5 degrees C. { 23 F .

Aciphylla colensoi, growing wild.

Taken at New Round Lake, Karurangi National Park
Taken at New Round Lake, Karurangi National Park | Source

Aciphylla colensoi 'Spaniard'

Aciplylla colensoi, individual plants may be up to thirty five inches in diameter,and half as high,and they consist of sharp spear-like leaves all radiating from the centre.The flowers are yellow and borne on long,strong,stems. They are found both main islands of New Zealand at altitudes of up to 4,900 feet.

This species has a strong tap root.The foliage is rigid,divided into long narrow segments of a greyish green colour with prominent orange or reddish midribs. The individual flowers are small and yellowish,and produced in dense clusters along the stem up to a metre or so tall. Long narrow spines project from among the flowers to give the appearance of formidable protection.

The spiny nature of the plant is not as one may suppose,protection from grazing animals, but rather as protection against strong cold winds.

Aciphylla glacialis

Mount Hotham Victoria Australia.
Mount Hotham Victoria Australia. | Source

Aciphylla glacialis

Aciphylla glacialis,is commonly referred to as the 'Snow Aciphylla' or 'Mountain Celery'. It is found in the mountain regions of south eastern Australia,where it occurs from Victoria and New South Wales. It is classed as being Near Threatened,and is quite rare.

It is a sprawling herb with robust root-stock,and may attain the height of up to two and a half feet. The foliage leathery,crowded at the base they are 2-3 times divided, fan-like,ovate to elliptical in outline. They are 13-28 cm { Five and a quarter - eleven inches }, long including the 6-16 cm { two and a half -six and a half}, long sheathing base.The segments are linear.

The male inflorescence is slender,and spreading,the female more robust and contracted with thicker stalks. Seven to sixteen umbellues {stalks} per Umbel. The flowers are 2.5-3 mm in diameter, the white petals are 1-1.5 mm long. Stamens often exceed the petals in the male flower, the female flowers have stamens that are reduced and sterile.

Other cultivars include A.scott-thomsonii { Giant Spaniard }, this is a very impressive plant that may attain the height of 4.5 metres { Fourteen feet}, with a spread of 2.3 feet. It produces an evergreen,rosette forming perennial,with much dissected,spiny foliage,which is bronze when young,maturing to silver grey. They have prickly spikes of tiny creamy yellow flowers,but these are rarely produced in cool or cold climates. This species prefers a moist but well drained soil.

Aciphylla squarrosa, the 'Bayonet' plant,is an evergreen clump forming perennial with tufts of pointed,divided leaves. During the summer it bears spiky yellow flowers in compound umbels with male and female flowers often mixed. The height and spread is three to four feet. They prefer full sun and well drained soil. They are frost hardy to -5 degrees C { 23 degrees F}.

Acokanthera fruits

Old Fort Gardens. Durban
Old Fort Gardens. Durban | Source

Acokanthera oblongifolia.

United States Botanical Garden
United States Botanical Garden | Source

Acokathera rotundata


Acokanthera schimperi Illustration.


The genus Acokanthera

Acokanthera, is a genus of evergreen shrubs and trees,grown for their flowers and overall appearance. The cultivars,however, are frost tender and require a minimum temperature of 10 degrees C { 50 F }. They require full sun/light, and well drained soil. Water plants in containers moderately, but less so when not in full growth. They may be propagated by semi-ripe cuttings during the summer..

There are five species in the genus.they belong to the family Apocynaceae. The sap contains a deadly cardio glyocide ovabain and was/is commonly used to poison arrows including those used for poaching Elephants..

Acokanthera leavigata, grows to the height of 39-40 feet tall. The flowers produced are white and fragrant. It is a native to Tanzania and Malawi, in south east Africa.

Acokanthera oblongifolia,is native to Mozambique and South Africa,it is also found in Honduras and is cultivated widely. The cultivars may also be found under the scientific names of Acokanthera spectabilis or Carissa spectabilis and are sometimes referred to by the common name of 'Winter Sweet'.

It is an evergreen,occasionally deciduous ,upright shrub with leathery dark green foliage. It bears terminal clusters of fragrant, purplish piank and white flowers,which are borne in late winter and early spring. In warmer regions they are succeeded by berries,that are black when ripe and poisonous. They require full sun and well drained soil.

Acokanthera oppsoitifolia, is also a native of southern and central Africa,from Cape Province,north to Zaire and Tanzania.

Acokanthera rotundifolia, is a shrub or small tree. The fragrant flowers are often pink to red/white corollas. The fruit is red to purple when ripe. It grows in rocky areas of dry woodland. it is native to Zimbabwe,Swaziland and South Africa.

Acokanthera schimperi, is a native of Eritrea,Ethiopia,Somali,Kenya, Tanzania Uganda,Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is the only species in the genus that occurs naturally outside Africa in Yemen.


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    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Hi Deb,

      You are very kind,glad you enjoyed. Best wishes to you.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Lots more beauties here. I commend you on your extensive plant knowledge.


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